Microsoft is to change how it handles the automatic renewal of subscriptions for its online Xbox gaming services in response to an investigation by the UK’s competition watchdog.
The gaming giant said it will provide more information to customers upfront about its Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass services, including their use of auto-renewal and how to turn the feature off.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had raised concerns about some aspects of the subscriptions and asked whether it was clear upfront that contracts would automatically renew, how easy it was to turn off automatic renewals, and whether people may not have realised they were still paying for a service they had stopped using.
The issues were raised as part of a wider investigation into online gaming.
In response, the CMA says Microsoft has agreed to make changes designed to address those concerns.
Xbox Live Gold allows gamers to play online, while Game Pass gives them access to hundreds of games for one monthly payment.
Microsoft will give more transparent and upfront information to help customers understand its subscriptions and to make it clear they will auto-renew unless gamers opt out.
It will also provide more details on when a subscription will auto-renew, how much it will cost, and how customers can receive a refund after an accidental auto-renewal.
Existing customers on recurring 12-month subscriptions will be given the option of ending their contract and getting a refund.
And those with inactive memberships will be contacted to remind them to stop paying – with payments stopped if they continue not to use their subscription.
“Gamers need to be given clear and timely information to make informed choices when signing up for auto-renewing memberships and subscriptions,” CMA’s executive director of enforcement Michael Grenfell said.
“We are therefore pleased that Microsoft has given the CMA these formal undertakings to improve the fairness of their practices and protect consumers, and will be offering refunds to certain customers.
“Other companies offering memberships and subscriptions that auto-renew should take note and review their practices to ensure they comply with consumer protection law.”
In a statement, a Microsoft spokesman said: “At Xbox, we put our customers at the heart of everything we do.
“We have co-operated with the CMA to address its concerns and are pleased to have reached an agreement that includes some changes, such as making it easier for consumers to understand, manage and cancel recurring billing subscriptions.
“We will continue to bring all our fans the tools and options they need to make their experience the best it can be.”